Theo stared into the abyss; that is, he looked longingly at the blank cream-colored sheet held in the typewriter. It seemed as if that was all he was good for. One or two unique ideas. Deadlines loomed in front of him, just as they had in the past, but he paid them the same attention now as ever. His agent, impatient, had expressed her discontent with a few brief but tense house calls. The Neopian Times was waiting for the continuation of his latest serial, she had told him. The Neopian Times won't wait. The Neopian Times won't be here forever. You can wave goodbye to the Neopian Times.
His mind stalled, stuttered. He wondered how much time he wasted by thinking about things he'd already thought about. He pulled his ears behind his head and stared deeply at the paper. Ink would appear out of nowhere, sinking into the sheet, forming letters, words, which would capture action, even emotion. Theo sat and hoped wholeheartedly that such a thing would happen.
Moonlight streamed in through his window, casting slanted rectangles across the floor and up the wall. Sitting, admiring the simple beauty of the light, Theo felt an illumination of his own rising in his chest. He leaned forward, his fingers assuming a rigid position above the keys. A bright spark in his brain, and his fingers were flying across the keys.
The moon, unadorned,
puts the land's greatest beauty
Theo remained still for a moment, his fingertips hovering above the typewriter. He looked back to the moonlight, and in a moment of anguish, he tore the paper from its perch and crumpled it into a ball. "Beauty," he muttered, "I must capture beauty."
When the sun rose in the morning, an entirely new kind of light blazed through Theo's window. Warmth, energy, adventure – all captured in a single sunbeam. Rising from his bed, Theo stared into the light of the sun. Beauty. That was beauty. Simplicity.
Now in his kitchen, reading a newspaper with a bowl of cereal in front of his face, he looked for beauty. He looked for it around him, in the walls, in the windows, in himself. And he was disappointed. He glanced into a mirror: his face was wrinkle-creased, haggard. He had lost the hopeful, content countenance of a Zafara. All at once, Theo vowed to look for beauty, as much for his peace of mind as for his writing.
Exploration beckoned. With only his typewriter and enough money for his next meal, Theo left his small house in Neopia Central and entered the marketplace. He observed the crowds of people. Some milled about with no clear purpose, others walked with their heads down, focused on their mission. But there was a spectrum. Each person was unique in his actions, but still part of the group.
Theodore approached a slender Kyrii who was scurrying by. "Hello – excuse me!"
She slowed, uncertain. "Pardon me?"
"Where are you going?" He readjusted his grip on the typewriter.
"Well..." She raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to buy a coffee, then I'm going to stop by the mall for a new outfit." Uneasily, she started to turn around.
"Why?" he shot back.
"I want the coffee because I like coffee. I want to go to the mall because I like clothes." It was a simple answer. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." She hurried away from Theo, clearly perturbed.
Theo sat cross-legged by the road and took out his typewriter. He wrote:
A Warf chasing his tail,
It seems to me he wastes his time.
But he would be pleased
if he ever caught it.
Even if the Zafara found happiness and beauty in Neopia Central, Theo doubted that he would. Standing up, he put the typewriter under his shoulder again and continued on.
Meridell's gentle hills appealed to Theo from a distance. He watched as the corn and wheat gently swayed in the breeze. Life was everywhere: grass, trees, tiny insects buzzing on chaotic paths. Instead of walking on the main path, he took a shortcut through the wheat field. The wheat was a cocoon around him, insulting him from the world. He took out his typewriter.
The sky fills my vision,
Every point is the same,
Even if I...
A shriek startled Theo from his concentration.
"Hey! What are you doing in my crops?" A Kacheek glared from above at his sitting form.
"I am on a search for beauty and truth," answered Theo. Weakly, he forced a smile.
"You can begin with getting out of my field," said the farmer, scratching his head. "I'm telling you now that you can say goodbye to beauty and happiness if you stay here, trespassing on my land."
The gruff attitude of the farmer startled Theo. He put his fingers back on the typewriter and continued to write.
...change my view,
Suddenly he found himself being hoisted over the shoulder of the Kacheek. He hung limp, giving no resistance. The farmer set him down by the main road. "If you really want to find beauty, why don't you go back home?" he said. "Eat a solid meal. Get some rest. Find a friend. Appreciating simple pleasures is beauty."
Theo nodded vaguely, weighing what the farmer had said.
...is the same,
Theo gazed back at the wheat field, at the crude path he had trampled through the once upright crop. And he knew in his heart that his stay in Meridell would not yield happiness.
While walking through the marketplace of Neopia Central one last time, Theo heard music. A slightly out-of-tune piano sang from not far away. Theo paused and let the sound of the waltz wash over him. Though quiet, the melody overwhelmed the faint chords in the background. His head bobbing to the beat, Theo followed the music.
He found the source finally in the book shop. A gaunt Mynci leaned over the keyboard, pouring his soul into the piano. The comparison rang true on many levels: it seemed to Theo as if the piano had sucked the soul straight from the Mynci. If Theo looked slightly disheveled, then the pianist was an absolute mess. The contrast between player and piece detracted from the majesty. Theo's face fell as he watched the artist slowly fall victim to his work. Beauty was in happiness, in simplicity. Beauty was not in obsession.
And Theo reflected on his brief journey. He had humiliated the Kyrii, he had disrespected the Mynci. Pursuit of enlightenment was no excuse for his actions.
He returned home, two brief poems and newfound modesty all he had to show for his efforts. As he weighed his new values, Theo glanced over to his typewriter, which he'd left lying on the other side of the room. The oiled black hammers and levers appealed to him even now. But he looked past his desire to return to the life he had before. Placing the typewriter firmly in the trash can, Theo allowed himself a smile.
In his desk, he found a simple ballpoint pen. He retrieved his first poem from the trash can and flipped the half sheet of paper to the back. In scrawling black letters, he wrote:
Beauty is superficial,
Aesthetic nothing more than
a product of the brain.
But it is all we have.